Jul 29

Something for the weekend: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Favourites

For the past couple of years I’ve reviewed shows in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  In case you can’t decide what to see, here are reviews and profiles of my favourites.

This Year’s Favourites

Eric’s Tales of the Sea

Breath-taking, poignant, suspenseful, and hilarious, Eric’s tales are enthralling, told by a gifted storyteller who will draw you into the depths of his world.  Self-deprecating and never boastful, he gives an account of the bravery of his fellow submariners that is moving, humbling, and comic.  Even if you’re not in the least interested in life aboard a submarine, I thoroughly recommend it.

Dave Gorman’s Power Point Presentation

Dave Gorman’s Power Point Presentation is a treat.  Candid, self-effacing and zany, it’s a glimpse into his life of cake-bingeing, the weird world of twitter, and accidental Jewishness.  A ponderer extraordinaire, he takes tangential thinking to new heights with a naughtiness that is infectious and hilarious.  There are so many lines I’d love to quote, but that might spoil the fun, so much of which is in the ingenuous delivery.

Last Year’s Favourites – Back Again This Year

Zoe Lyons

Self-confessed middle class binge (and minge- after she’s had a few) drinker, foie gras eater, and veal muncher with a clown shoe carbon footprint, Zoe Lyons makes hilarious even the seemingly most quotidian of concerns.  From eco-parents and the bitterness they spawn to Chanel knockoffs and the megabus, her timing is sharp, her delivery is by turns mirthful and belligerent, and her jokes are intelligent and gleeful. 

Helen Arney

Helen Arney’s show is a hilarious parade of stalking, dysfunctional relationships, Jean-Paul Sartre, washed-up accordions, over-eager dates, and death by disastrous marriage proposal, set to music – piano, ukulele and a pimped glockenspiel.  Charming, witty, and warm, with great one-liners and every hope and heartache you might ever have had, it’s like spending an evening with a funny, interesting, quirky friend.

Asher Treleaven

Via “the sweet filth of John Waters, the dark strange wrongness of David Lynch”, and a near-encounter with the secret theatre for madmen, in his “anarchic romp through the minefield of sexual identity”, Secret Door, Asher Treleaven grapples with the question “What maketh the man?”

“The issue of masculinity is important because, in Australia, (and I believe in the UK) the idea of masculinity is a very simplistic, follow the herd idea that is enforced with growing violence and a strong animosity toward difference and self expression. The herd is trying to scare and pressure others to be like them.

“It shits me that I can’t walk down the street in most Australian cities late at night without worrying about being hassled for dressing a certain way and I find it distressing that the drinking, violence and obesity are all normal for most masculine cultures, in the UK and overseas.

“Basically most men are jerks and I want to make fun of them and their violent stupidity.”

A graduate of the Australian National Institute of Circus Arts and lover of the burlesque, naughty, and surreal, once flagellated onstage to Private Dancer, “your average pound shop Dandy” cannot help but intrigue.


2A Different Kettle of Fish is hilarious.  Irreverent, witty, surprising, mischievous, and hugely overacted to great dramatic effect, it was an hour spent in wonderfully silly company.  The troupe – four men and one woman – rattles through sketches so fresh they ought to patent them before anyone nicks them.  J. K. Rowling attempts to take over the world and Milton Keynes’ finest stagger it out on Ladiators.  Bloody brilliant and hugely recommended.

To find out when and where they’re on, go to the Fringe website.

Unfortunately, these acts aren’t appearing this year, but if you have a chance to see them wherever you are, please do.  They’re fabulous.

Dixie Longate

Dixie Longate is fabulous.  With enormous beehive hair, gingham getup, more plastic storage solutions than you could use in a lifetime, patter so glib she could sell every piece, and a sultry Southern drawl, hers is the risqué take on the cosy world of the Tupperware party.

Forced to find a job to get back her kids on her release from prison, Dixie’s parole officer suggested she try Tupperware.  “Working my ass off”, she became America’s number two Tupperware seller before ditching her catalogues and setting off on a tour, exhibiting her skills as party hostess extraordinaire.

Never hokey, her tale of domestic violence, crime, the parole officer who got her into Tupperware, her idol Brownie Wise, inventor of the Tupperware Party, and her “You Matter” message give the show a heart-warming hue.

It’s also deliciously bitchy and irreverent.  With vodka beaker in hand and screwdriver ice lollies for the kids, Dixie teases, winks, banters, glares, giggles, smiles sweetly, and huffs her way through the most hilarious and naughty Tupperware party you’ll ever attend – name tags, games, raffles and all.

Francesca Beard

With her daughters’ stuffed toys and an inspired wit, poet Francesca Beard, is bringing the Chinese Zodiac to the Fringe.  Her first solo Edinburgh show, Animal Olympics, is ostensibly for kids, telling the tale of the animals racing to work out the order in which they appear in the calendar.

“I wanted to make a show for the whole family,” says Beard, “where parents might enjoy it as much as kids.  My main thing at the moment is to get a good balance between the theatrical plot on the one hand and a more improvisational, audience-responsive vibe. There’s a very strong storyline, motivated by the fact that Cat has been pushed out of the calendar and me and the audience are given the job of interviewing all the animals to find out why, by the very bossy Jade Princess, May Yee. It’s great that there is that strong structure, but I do love making an audience a catalyst in each performance.”

A pioneer of the Free Fringe and recipient of the 2003 Tap Water Award for Best Spoken Word Artist, Beard’s work is a comedic melange of astute observation, tangential thinking, sharp quips, and effervescent performance.  And not just for kids.

Bec Hill

Bec Hill is great fun.  Her energetic romp through the world of superheroes – the necessary requirements, pitfalls, and her own attempts to be one – is fun more than funny, but very entertaining with the banter and inventiveness of a burgeoning comic talent.  Seemingly the most heroic person in the room, I was made honorary sidekick.  Have your good deeds at the ready.

Mackenzie and McGuire

Octavia Mackenzie and Ashley McGuire are known for their surreal spin on the everyday, from death to “the absurdity of Britain’s class system” (find “Kensington Rhyming Slang” on youtube). This year’s show, Radio Hoohah, is an absurdist take on the world of radio.

“We both love surreal humour, as well as a bit of darkness, and we wanted the chance to explore our childish side too. We listen to a lot of Radio Four, which we love. But also it is a gold mine for comic ideas. There are some programmes on there that are unintentionally absurd, and we wanted to highlight that. And we just love the idea of the theatre audience having to pretend they are at a radio studio, coming to watch some live recordings. And then things get a little twisted!”

With Anne Widdecombe on a Notting Hill Carnival float, Octogenarian romance novelist reading her latest in cockney rhyming slang, and Leonora Velvety Constable-Wheeler’s tales of being stuck in the loo and having her skirt accidentally tucked into her vagina, it sounds deliciously so.

Described as “a French and Saunders for the Facebook generation”, this year, they’re hoping for The Two Ronnies or Morecambe and Wise.

Miles Jupp

Miles Jupp makes being the alternately inept and outraged Englishman into an art form.  Revealing a vulnerability not often seen onstage in the modern male, with rolling anecdotes and zany observations, Jupp’s endearing, sharp humour is irresistible.

If you don’t think you’re up to the rigours of scrotal surgery stay away, but you’d be missing out on the hilarity.  And a voice with an uncanny resemblance to Colin Firth.


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